I wrote a guest post for the wonderful Mad, Bad and Desperate blog (http://criminalunacy.blogspot.co.uk) which I am reposting here. Alternatively, check out the original here.
Proving insanity in the Victorian courtroom was a notoriously tricky business and no case demonstrates this better than that of Christiana Edmunds, the infamous Chocolate Cream Killer.
Christiana was 43 when she stood in the dock of the Old Bailey in January 1872, charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder by poisoning.
In court, the prosecution alleged that Christiana was a cold-blooded killer, driven to commit the mass poisoning of Brighton over the summer of 1871 because she had been rejected by the man she loved. The man in question was Dr Charles Beard, a local doctor, and his wife, Emily, was Christiana's first victim. In fact, Christiana poisoned Emily on two occasions and, fortunately, she survived both of these attempts.
The prosecution also alleged that Christiana's weapon of choice - poisoned chocolate creams - was strong evidence of her sound mind and sinister intent. Through painstaking investigation, the police pieced together her highly-planned and skilful method of obtaining poison: she had purchased chocolate creams from a local confectioner called John Maynard and used a false name and address to purchase strychnine from the local chemist, Isaac Garrett. After she had adulterated the chocolate creams at home, she paid young boys to return the creams to Maynard's shop (citing poor quality as the reason for return) or simply dispersed them across Brighton by leaving small bags in shops she frequented.
The ingenuity of her poisoning spree made the task of defending Christiana enormous and the man hired to do this job was John Humffreys Parry, a well-known and well-respected serjeant-at-law. Despite working on some of the era's most sensational cases, including that of Marie Manning, Parry openly admitted in court that he had never encountered a case like Christiana's and was, quite frankly, baffled by her motive:
In my experience at the bar - which is now not a short experience - I never remember any case similar to this. In my reading of the criminal annals, both of this country and others, I never remember a case similar to this, and I frankly own - I am not ashamed of it - that I feel completely at a loss in my own mind how to place this case by way of argument before you.
But, after meeting with Christiana as she awaited trial in Newgate, Parry became convinced of her insanity and, a dig around her family history, gave him the evidence he needed.
Born in 1828, Christiana was the eldest child of the locally-celebrated architect, William Edmunds. She grew up in relative wealth and luxury and was privately educated in Ramsgate. In March 1847, however, her died in a lunatic asylum in London. The cause of death was General Paralysis of the Insane, an illness that we now know as tertiary syphilis but, for the Victorians, was just another form of insanity. In addition, one of Christiana's sisters, Louisa, tried to kill herself by jumping from a window and, even more tragically, Christiana's youngest brother, Arthur, died of epilepsy in a lunatic asylum in Surrey. This, according to Parry, provided irrefutable evidence of the taint of madness in Christiana's family.
To successfully plead insanity, however, Parry would need to satisfy the McNaughtan Rules, the most commonly-employed test for insanity in the Victorian courtroom. In essence, these rules stated that the "jurors ought to be told in all cases that every man is to be presumed sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction." In other words, if Parry was to convince the jury of Christiana's insanity, he would need to prove what had happened to her family.
In court, Parry called a number of witnesses to testify to the taint of madness in the Edmunds family, including the current superintendent of Southall Park, one of two asylums which treated her late father. The superintendent of Reigate Asylum was also present to verify the death of her brother, Arthur.
Parry also arranged for some medical experts to interview Christiana and to medically assess her state of mind. These men were some of the leading figures in Victorian psychiatry and included William Wood, a physician at St Luke's hospital in London, Henry Maudsley, psychiatrist and professor of medical jurisprudence, and Charles Lockhart Robertson, former superintendent of the Sussex County Asylum. These men interviewed Christiana on 7 January 1872, just a few weeks before her trial, and were immediately struck by the "absolute indifference" to her position. William Wood, for example, could not make her understand the severity of the charges laid before her and quickly came to the conclusion that Christiana could not distinguish between right and wrong. Similarly, Henry Maudsley found her lacking in any "moral feeling" and regarded her as the one of those people on the "border-land between crime and insanity."
With all men in agreement that Christiana was insane as a result of her family history, Parry was confident that he could satisfy the McNaughtan Rules. In court, however, Charles Lockhart Robertson made a monumental mistake when questioned by the prosecutor, William Ballantine:
William Ballantine: Had she any moral sense?
Charles Lockhart Robertson: To a certain degree she had.
WB: Do you mean that if she administered poison to another with intent to kill she would not know she was doing wrong?
CLR: I believe that she would know that she was doing wrong if she committed an act.
By admitting that Christiana knew the difference between right and wrong, Robertson threatened to destroy Parry's defence. To make matters worse, the prosecution summed up in stating that insanity was the preferred defence of the wealthier classes who would rather spend time in an asylum than in prison. Given Christiana’s conduct while on remand, which included constant complaints about her poor conditions, it was indeed plausible that she might claim insanity to avoid further time in prison.
It took a little over an hour for the jury to find Christiana Edmunds guilty of all counts. She appeared calm and unmoved as she was sentenced to death. Parry's defence had failed: the jury believed that Christiana knew the difference between right and wrong, despite the prevalence of insanity in her family.
Find out what happened next in my new book, The Case of the Chocolate Cream Killer: The Poisonous Passion of Christiana Edmunds, on sale now.
(All images courtesy of Wellcome Library).
For Father's Day, I'm posting this article about William Edmunds, the father of the notorious Chocolate Cream Killer, Christiana Edmunds. This is based partly on a recent article for Bygone Kent magazine which will be available in the Summer Issue...
While Christiana is associated with Brighton, her Kentish roots are an important part of her life and these begin in the seaside town of Margate. She was born at 16 Hawley Square in 1828, almost exactly nine months after the marriage of her parents. Her mother was Ann Burn, the daughter of a Maidstone-born officer in Royal Marines and her father was William Edmunds, one of the county's most celebrated architects. Unlike his wife, William was a native of Margate: his father, Thomas, had been landlord of the highly-popular, White Hart Hotel, and occasionally worked on the town's major building projects. When Thomas died in 1823, the 22-year-old William took over the running of the hotel but soon felt pulled in a different direction. In 1825, he won a competition to design a new church in Margate and work began immediately on his creation, Holy Trinity Church.
The success of this project propelled William into the local spotlight. A number of exciting projects followed, including the Margate Lighthouse in 1828 and Levey's Bazaar shortly after. Soon, he was in demand across the county: he designed the Trinity Church in Dover in 1833, the Blean Union Workhouse in 1835, he remodelled the Kent and Canterbury Hospital in 1838 and, one year later, constructed a pavilion in Dover in honour of the Duke of Wellington.
While William's career blossomed, his home life was equally blessed. Ann gave birth to another six children after Christiana: William, in 1829; Mary, in 1832; Louisa, in 1833; Frederick, also In 1833 and Ellen, in 1835. The youngest, Arthur, followed in 1841. The couple also had three servants to help care for the children and tend to their luxurious home.
But William's life was about to take a turn for the worse. Beginning after his work on the Dover Pavilion, he began to experience some strange symptoms. He stopped working, started drinking and began to rave about owning "millions of money." Life in the Edmunds household continued, for the most part, as normal: Christiana went off to boarding school in Ramsgate and her brother was enrolled at the prestigious King's School in Canterbury, while William steadily deteriorated. By 1842, he had developed paralysis of the tongue and mouth, his suffered an unsteady gait and was increasingly incoherent and confused. The following year, William entered Southall Park, a lunatic asylum in London. His diagnosis was General Paralysis of the Insane and his prognosis was bleak.
General Paralysis of the Insane, or GPI, is the Victorian name for the final (tertiary) stage of syphilis. The Victorians had no idea that GPI was linked to syphilis - that link was only made in the 20th century - and William may never have realised that syphilis was to blame for his sudden illness. Whatever the truth, William was treated like any other incurable lunatic and there would be no more talk of his former glories in Kent.
When William died in the asylum in March 1847, the newspapers noted his passing but made no mention of the circumstances of his final years. To escape any potential scandal, the family sold all of their possessions, sacked the servants and moved to Canterbury to start afresh. Within a few years, the family had shrunk considerably: the eldest son, William, had gone to London to train as a surgeon, Mary had married a Sussex clergymen, Louisa was working as a governess and Frederick and Ellen had both passed away. The youngest child, Arthur, was diagnosed with epilepsy and placed into the Royal Earlswood Asylum for Idiots in Reigate, Surrey. Christiana and her mother were now alone, living off the generous inheritance bequeathed to them by the late William Edmunds.
Christiana and her mother's near-disappearance from public record in Canterbury is arguably strong evidence of their successful integration into local society. They appear only in the censuses of 1851 and 1861, though in far less luxurious circumstances than Margate. In fact, they rented the upstairs rooms of 21 St George's Street, a house owned by James Nash, a brush-maker from Hampshire. Beyond this, we know virtually nothing of their life in Canterbury.
But history was about to repeat itself for the Edmunds. In January 1866, young Arthur died in Reigate Asylum, followed in 1867 by his sister, Louisa, who collapsed outside of her home in Margate and died soon after. Louisa had suffered from repeated bouts of hysteria and had unsuccessful attempted suicide on at least one occasion. Her cause of death is rather curiously cited as menorrhagia - heavy menstruation - though Victorian death attributions are notoriously misleading. Whatever the case, the surviving Edmunds once again paced their bags and prepared to start a new life . This time, they chose the town of Brighton in East Sussex, presumably to get further away from the taint of death in the asylum.
But the move to Brighton would set Christiana on a path of destruction which would dramatically alter the course of her life. Her Kentish roots and her father's tragic demise would resurface at trial, used by her defence as sad evidence of the prevalence of insanity in her family. Following a guilty verdict, the story of the Edmunds family came full circle: like her father, Christiana spent the remaining years of her life in an asylum, dying there of 'senile debility' in 1907.
Image courtesy of the wonderful site, Margate Local History.
The Body on the Moor: Neil Dovestone, A Modern Case of Strychnine Poisoning
This week, the BBC Magazine is running a series of reports on the case of Neil Dovestone. This isn't his real name: Neil Dovestone is a John Doe, his identity remains unknown to the police, despite months of police investigation and media coverage.
If you're not familiar with Neil's case, here are the details. On the morning of December 11 2015, Neil Dovestone, an elderly man of between 65 and 75 years old, took the 10 am train from London's Euston Station to Manchester Piccadilly. Arriving just after midday, Neil spent 53 minutes perusing the shops at the station before travelling to Saddleworth Moor in Oldham. Here, Neil went into the Clarence pub and asked the landlord for directions to "the mountains" - though he did not specify a particular place. The landlord then took him to the door of the pub and directed him towards the Dovestone Reservoir (hence the name of this John Doe). Neil then left the pub, heading in that direction, and was not seen again until just after 3 pm. According to the witness, he was halfway up the Indian's Head, a 1500 ft peak. This the last confirmed sighting of Neil.
At 10:50 am the next morning, a cyclist was riding up the Indian's Head when he spotted Neil's body and called the emergency services. Neil was lying on his back with his arms by his side, prompting the cyclist to think that he had died of a heart attack. When the emergency services arrived, they found the following things on Neil's person:
Neil had no identification on his person, not even a wallet.
After the discovery of the body, a toxicology report showed that natural causes were not responsible for Neil's death: he had, in fact, died after taking a lethal dose of strychnine which readers of this blog will know is one of the deadliest substances known to man and was banned in the UK in 2006. Traces of the poison were also found on the empty bottle of thyroxine sodium in Neil's coat.
This case is both tragic and fascinating. It is so sad that nobody has come forward and identified Neil and that nobody can explain why he travelled over 200 miles to Saddleworth Moor to take his own life, a place synonymous with the crimes of Ian Brady and Myra Hindley. All of the police enquiries and public appeals have (thus far) drawn a blank. That being said, nobody can say definitively that Neil wasn't murdered. There is not enough evidence to say either way. Knowing what I know about strychnine, I find it hard to accept that anybody would willingly use it to commit suicide. Anybody of sound mind, anyway. Death by strychnine is an agonising process, as I learned through my research into Christiana Edmunds, and it is an extremely uncommon cause of death in the 21st century.
Here's an artist's sketch of Neil because someone out there might recognise him. You just never know.
Image courtesy of The Independent. Follow the case using #bodyonthemoor
When Christiana Edmunds stood trial for her poisoning spree in January 1872, her physical appearance was heavily scrutinised by the press. This was not uncommon among murderesses, as I'll discuss in a later post, but it was, in part, a response to the rise of a pseudo-science called Physiognomy.
As a rough definition, Physiognomy is the belief that studying a person's facial features or expressions can be indicative of their personality or behaviour. Though it's centuries old, the Victorians had a particular love for Physiognomy and believed that it had a myriad of uses. It was used, for example, to depict the so-called differences between racial groups, like the Jews and the Irish. It was also used by Hugh Welch Diamond, the Superintendent at the Surrey County Asylum (1848-1858), as a means of both illustrating insanity (in its various forms) and as a method of treatment. Diamond believed that if a patient saw a photo of herself, she might recognise her madness and begin the process of recovery. (This practice also forms the basis of an excellent novel called The Painted Bridge by Wendy Wallace - do check it out if you haven't read it).
Here are some of the photographs taken by Hugh Welch Diamond. What do you think? Do these women look 'mad'?
As for Christiana Edmunds, Physiognomy also had a place in the Victorian courtroom. When Christiana took her place in the dock, for example, her features were analysed as a means of decoding the aspects of her personality. Here's an extract from one such report:
"The profile is irregular, but not unpleasing; the upper lip is long and convex; mouth slightly projecting; chin straight, long and cruel…From the configuration of the lips the mouth might be thought weak, but at a glance the chin removes any such impression and Christiana Edmunds has a way of compressing the lips occasionally, when the left side of the mouth twists up with a sardonic, defiant determination, in which there is something of a weird comeliness." (Daily News, 16 January, 1872).
For this reporter, Christiana was evidently an alluring type of criminal. But the idea that she possessed a "weird comeliness" depicts Christiana as a sort-of social outsider; as being distinct and separate from other people. This demonstrates an important point about Physiognomy in the Victorian court: that it was used to provide a distinction between the criminal and non-criminal. Physiognomists believed that criminals were physically set apart from those who abided the law and this provided a much-needed feeling of comfort and security.
Find out more about Christiana in my new book: The Case of the Chocolate Cream Killer: The Poisonous Passion of Christiana Edmunds. Available now.
Images courtesy of Flickr.
Here's an article I wrote today for the wonderful Findmypast blog which details my research into Christiana's family tree. The discovery of syphilis was a major breakthrough in my study of Christiana's family and it had an important effect on my book...
(You can read the original article here).
"For my new book, I have traced the life and times of Christiana Edmunds, nicknamed the Chocolate Cream Killer, and one of the most notorious murderesses of the Victorian era. Using records on the Findmypast site, I've been able to discover intimate details about Christiana's life and crimes.Christiana's weapon of choice was poison - strychnine and, sometimes, arsenic - and her poisoning spree brought the town of Brighton to its knees over the summer of 1871.Her trial at the Old Bailey in the following year was heavily-attended by the press and public and she was the first woman to have her death sentence respited to a permanent stay in the newly-built Broadmoor Asylum. She lived there until her death from 'senile debility' in 1907. While it was easy to get swept in by the sensational aspects of her crimes, I suspected that there might be more to Christiana's story than passion and passion and, once I got stuck into the research, I was quickly proved right.
Using Findmypast's newspaper archive, I had gleaned a lot of Christiana's biographical details from the press coverage of her trial. I knew, for instance, that she was not a native of Brighton, the scene of her crimes, but was, in fact, born in Margate in 1828. Her father, William Edmunds, was a locally-celebrated architect who married Ann Burn, the daughter of a Royal Marines officer, on New Year's Day in 1828. After their marriage, the couple moved to a large and luxurious house in Hawley Square, one of the most sought-after addresses in town, where they employed three servants.
From the press coverage, I knew that Christiana was the couple's eldest child and she was followed by a son, William, in 1829; two more daughters, Louisa and Mary, in 1831 and 1832; and finally, a son, Arthur, in 1841. The nine-year gap between Mary and Arthur seemed, to me, to be unusually long, considering the health of the couple and the lack of reliable contraception in the period. So, digging further with Parish records, I found two children who died in infancy during this gap: Frederick, in 1833, and Ellen, in 1835. Infant mortality was not uncommon in the Victorian era, even among the wealthier classes, but I couldn't help but wonder if there was a reason why these two babies had died when the other five had prospered.
Using the Findmypast family tree builder, I started to put these details together, all the while wondering about poor Frederick and Ellen. It was only when I returned to researching Christiana's father, William Edmunds, that I made the breakthrough I had hoped for. I knew that William had died in mysterious circumstances in a lunatic asylum in London in 1847 but then, with the help of his death certificate, I learned the cause of his sudden demise: William was suffering from "General Paralysis of the Insane," a Victorian term for the third and final stage of syphilis.
Whether William knew he had syphilis is subject to some speculation. Syphilis was extremely common in Victorian England, affecting around one-tenth of the population, but its symptoms are not always easy to detect. He may never have noticed, for instance, the small, painless chancre which appears shortly after infection. Even if he did, Victorian doctors were unable to treat it effectively. In fact, the advice to young Victorian men was to go forth and procreate, an idea based on the mistaken assumption that syphilis will eventually go away. But untreated syphilis causes a number of problems for procreating couples, including a high incidence of miscarriage and congenital syphilis, a potentially life-threatening condition for children.
Not all children born to parents with syphilis, however, will develop congenital syphilis. In fact, modern studies suggest that a newly-infected mother has a 59 percent chance of transmitting the infection to her baby but the likelihood decreases for mothers in the later stages of syphilis, to around 13 percent. For those babies who do become infected, they face a number of serious health problems, like fever, gastroenteritis and pneumonia; health issues which can be fatal in young children. Suddenly, the mysterious and sudden deaths of young Frederick and Ellen had a possible explanation.
But what did all this mean for Christiana? Did she have syphilis? Could third-stage syphilis explain the 'madness' she claimed to have at her trial? Initially, I thought it did. It seemed logical to me that her father had contracted syphilis in his days a bachelor, before his marriage to Ann, and that Christiana was, perhaps, suffering from the mental effects of syphilis at the time she committed her crimes. But then I made another discovery which changed my mind once again.
In 1875, Dr Max Kassovitz, a paediatrician and leading figure in the field of congenital syphilis made a remarkable observation on the disease. He proved that congenital syphilis is defined by 'spontaneous gradual diminution in intensity of syphilitic transmission." In other words, with each succeeding pregnancy, the effect of syphilis on a baby will gradually diminish. For the Edmunds family, this means that Frederick and Ellen were the first victims of congenital syphilis and that William became infected with syphilis while married to his wife, not before. According to Kassovitz's law, there is no possibility of Christiana being 'mad' as a result of congenital syphilis.
While syphilis was not responsible for Christiana's actions, it gave me an important insight into her family history. I would never have given much thought to the possibility of syphilis, had I not looked at her family tree and noticed such a large gap between children but, in doing so, I came to view Christiana very differently. Family tragedies, like the deaths of Frederick and Ellen, helped to define the woman that Christiana came to be and we cannot understand the motivations of the so-called Chocolate Cream Killer without them."
I am very pleased to share this lovely review of my book on Christiana Edmunds from the Brighton and Hove Independent. (You can view the original article here).
"You know that expression that we all use – ‘only in Brighton’. Well, this certainly applies to this book: The true story of Christiana Edmunds and her thwarted pash on her doctor. So thwarted in fact that she tries to poison his wife and child. When that doesn’t work, and he gets suspicious she comes up with what she thinks is a simply marvy idea, and that it is to randomly poison the whole town to get the blame off her. Hmm, what could possibly go wrong?
This is a staggering account of just how easy it was (stop a child in the street, bung them a copper, and forge a note saying you’re a chemist in North Street and have run out of arsenic or strychnine and Bob’s your uncle.) She then buys some chocolate creams from Maynards in the centre of town, randomly places her (poisoned) chocolates back in the bag, grabs another urchin and gets them to return them to the shop. The shop then places them back in stock and the whole of Brighton plays Russian roulette with bon bons.
The book is full of horrendous yet fascinating facts about Victorian food safety, the ‘cure’ for hysterical women, the treatment of the insane, and general views of women at the time. A true account that makes for great reading. But maybe not over a box of chocolates."
Here is. an article I wrote about Christiana Edmunds' poisoning spree in Brighton for Real Crime Daily/Real Crime Magazine. (You can read the original here).
Late one evening in September 1870, the wife of a Brighton physician, Emily Beard, received a visitor. The lady was Christiana Edmunds, a friend of the couple, who had brought some chocolates for her children, now tucked up in bed. Sitting in the parlour, Emily and Christiana chatted for a while before Christiana pulled out one of the chocolates and forced it into Emily’s mouth.
Emily, overwhelmed by a strange, metallic taste in her mouth, promptly spat the chocolate out and looked at her guest for an explanation. But Christiana said nothing and quickly left the house. Over the course of the night, Emily suffered a number of unpleasant symptoms, including stomach ache and diarrhoea, and started to wonder if she was the victim of poisoned chocolates.
Emily’s suspicions were, in fact, correct. Christiana had visited her house that night with the intent to murder but her poison of choice, strychnine, had been her undoing. This type of poison, derived from the Nux Vomica tree, is known for its bitter taste which is so strong that it is impossible to hide in food or drink. When ingested, however, strychnine is one of the most toxic substances known to man: as little as 60 micrograms is enough to kill an adult human and the fatal symptoms can begin in as little as 15 minutes.
Compare this with the Victorian favourite, arsenic trioxide, which has a lethal dose of around 120 micrograms, and the true strength of strychnine becomes apparent.
But what prompted Christiana to use such a potent poison on Emily? To understand this, we must go back to 1867 when Christiana arrived in Brighton from her native county of Kent. Shortly after her arrival, Christiana met with Emily’s husband, Dr Charles Beard. Their relationship was strictly professional as Christiana had a number of health problems, including hysteria and neuralgia. But, over the next year or two, Dr Beard and Christiana became close friends and they frequently visited each other at home. Before long, however, Christiana’s feelings towards Dr Beard became amorous and she started penning love letters to him.
Whether her feelings were reciprocated has been the subject of much speculation among historians: there is no evidence to suggest that he discouraged her affections nor that their relationship ever turned sexual. Whatever the case, Christiana was in the grip of a deep and consuming passion and she became determined to remove Emily so that she could have Dr Beard for herself.
After the poisoning in September, Dr Beard quickly put an end to his relationship with Christiana. She was devastated and claimed that the chocolate had been poisoned by the manufacturer, not by her own hands. Unsurprisingly, Dr Beard did not believe her and so Christiana devised an elaborate and clever scheme to frame John Maynard, the local confectioner from whom she purchased the chocolates.
In March 1871, Christiana put her plan into action: she approached a young boy selling newspapers in Brighton’s Spring Gardens and offered him a bag of Maynard’s chocolate creams. The boy, Benjamin Coultrop, was unaware of the chocolate cream’s deadly contents and gladly accepted them, having never met with such a seemingly-generous customer. Christiana handed them over and then disappeared as quickly as she had appeared.
Unlike Emily Beard, Benjamin did not notice an unusual taste in the chocolate creams so, over the course of a few hours, consumed almost all of the bag. He did, however, quickly develop some of the classic symptoms of strychnine poisoning: his mouth and throat burned, his muscles ached and he was overwhelmed with nausea.
His mother was so concerned that she took him to see a physician at the nearby Royal Sussex County Hospital who, for reasons unknown, did not diagnose Benjamin’s symptoms as poisoning by strychnine. Fortunately, Benjamin made a full recovery but he never reported his meeting with the strange lady to the police, leaving Christiana free to continue her most deadly poisoning spree.
Saxonfields Author Publishes The Case of the Chocolate Cream Killer.
More publicity for the book today, this time in my local newspaper, the Andover Advertiser.
You can read the full story here.
Author Reveals the Margate Past of a Murderess Dubbed the Chocolate Cream Killer
Today, the book has featured in the Isle of Thanet Gazette in which I talk about Christiana Edmunds' life in Margate.
Check out the full story here:
Today, the food industry is heavily regulated to protect and promote the health of consumers. But that hasn't always been the case. In fact, the addition of unnatural or unsafe products to food and drink was widespread in Victorian England. The motivations for adulteration were purely economic: using cheaper alternatives boosted profits and legislation to regulate the industry simply didn't exist. So, with this in mind, what are the implications for Christiana Edmunds? Was the Chocolate Cream Killer innocent, after all? Was this a case of accidental poisoning? Excuse the pun but it does give food for thought.
This image might seem a bit far-fetched but chocolate and sugar confectionery were two of the most heavily-adulterated foodstuffs of the 19th century. We can thank Fredrick Accum, a German chemist, for first bringing this problem to public attention. In 1820 he published his (damning) treatise on the English food industry and consumers were horrified. Accum found that sugar confectionery, in particular, was prone to adulteration with all manner of nasties, from starch to Cornish clay. Moreover, sweets were often coloured using "inferior" products or dangerous poisons, like red lead or copper. So it's perhaps not unreasonable to suggest that the sugar-filled centres of Christiana's chocolate creams were adulterated at source and not by her own hands.
After Accum's treatise, a number of articles and books on the subject of food adulteration followed and so did the number of nasties found in chocolate and sugar confectionery. In 1848, for example, John Mitchell found that high-quality chocolates were routinely mixed with starch and that cheaper chocolates were adulterated with "highly injurious" substances like lead. Publications from 1850 and 1855 added to the chocolate adulteration list: animal fat, brick dust, sulphate of lime, red lead and the shells of cocoa beans. The list got scarier and scarier and prompted The Food Journal to write, in 1870, that "there is no more unblushing and unlicensed poisoner in the world than the unscrupulous manufacturer of cheap confectionery. "